- Unexplained medical healing?
- Much needed money from an unknown source?
- An answered prayer?
- A significant coincidence?
- Surviving a horrible accident?
- Being saved by a surgeon?
- Witnessing child birth?
- Seeing the blessings within your curses?

When doing a search for the definition of “miracle” for this article, I was struck by the disparity amongst definitions and the apparent quandary many people face when confronted with the question, “What is a miracle?” The following are common characteristics required for an occurrence to be considered a “miracle:”

- Impossible or unexplainable according to the “laws of nature”
- Directly caused by Divine forces
- Improbably or rare occurrence
- An experience of wonder or awe

The term “miracle” has lost much of its awe factor in our day. It’s not because miracles are happening so often we’re becoming desensitized, it’s because our perspective of what “miracles” are has changed. Today, if you make it on time to work, despite tremendous traffic, you declare it is a “miracle.” Now, the question is, does trivializing the word “miracle” by assigning it to any somewhat improbable occurrence take away its meaning? Or, does it broaden your experience of awe?

Definitions from many of the world’s most ancient holy books are surprisingly similar. Only acts that can be performed only by God meet the scriptural standards of being considered a “miracle.” Some translations use the world “miracle,” whereas others use “wonder” or “sign.” Accordingly, the purpose of miracles is to point us to the truth that God is actively interfering with our existence. Many other sources throughout history and nearly every one today agree that miracles exist beyond the “laws of nature.” In short, miracles exist beyond what is possible without God’s interference.

In 1976, a revolutionary book and teaching method, based on the Christian bible and called A Course in Miracles, presented a new interpretation of “miracles.” The name of the book implies that the reader can, in fact, learn to create miracles. The Course teaches that a miracle is not an outer reversal of physical laws, but an inner shift in perception. Ego-based thinking is momentarily suspended, allowing Divine forces to manifest in our lives. According to The Course, we are actively involved in the creation of miracles.

This concept contradicts the traditional definition of “miracle,” which insists that God is the ONLY source or cause of miracles. However, ancient texts tell countless stories of Jesus (and others like Mohammad and Buddha) performing miracles, such as walking on water and levitating. These miracles involve a person performing unexplainable, supernatural feats that defy the laws of physicality as we know them. It appears The Course may be onto something by designating all individuals as potential “miracle workers.” Perhaps by shifting our perspectives we open the window for God’s light, miracles, to enter our lives.

Almost all definitions of “miracle” mention that they “defy the laws of nature,” but what exactly are they? Are the “laws of nature” prescriptive or descriptive? To me it seems that the “laws of nature” are the latter. I’m pretty certain that prescriptive laws need a prescriber. Since we did not learn of the “laws of nature” from an outside source, I surmise that these laws are human constructs, based on human observation, experience, and description. It is more accurate to state that miracles occur outside of the “laws of nature” as we know them at the time.

When the great leaders of the past were performing “miracles,” the collective worldview was based on a tiny fraction of the scientific understanding that we have today. As our knowledge of how the universe works increases, the “laws of nature” change to take this broadened understanding into account.

If we went back in time 1,000 years and brought with us an airplane or a dishwasher, the people of that time would view both as miracles, and would likely view us as Gods.
Must natural law be broken for a miracle to exist? Consider the following cases:

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords took a bullet through the brain. Her neurosurgeon says that Giffords’ ability to follow commands is “a miracle.” According to stricter definitions, Gifford survived due to the skill of paramedics, her surgeon, and the bullet’s trajectory—not because of supernatural. There is nothing medically unfathomable that took place. Does this mean it’s not a miracle?

US Airways flight 1549 emergency landed in the Hudson River and everyone survived. Captain Sullenberger was a veteran pilot with years of experience. He concluded that landing in the river was their best chance for survival and that closing off all of the plane’s compartment doors would keep water from rushing in. The plane’s safe landing can be explained according to all the laws of thermal dynamics, along with sound training and judgment.

These were miracles not because they defied explanation, but because people experienced them as a miracle. They experienced God manifesting in their reality. These were not miracles because God alone caused the plane’s safe landing, but because God worked through a highly skilled pilot and surgeon. They were miracles not because nothing like it has ever happened before, but because it happened when something extraordinary was most needed.

If God worked miracles through Jesus and Buddha, could miracles not be worked through trained surgeons and pilots? If miracles do NOT have to be directly manifested from God, perhaps they do not need to defy natural laws either. After all, “natural laws” according to whom?

If “natural law” is God’s creation, and something happened which is beyond these laws, wouldn’t these new possibilities just be included in an expanded definition of “natural laws”? Nothing can exist beyond God’s creation, it can only exist beyond natural laws as WE know them. And, would God not use Its own laws when creating miracles? Surely God can’t use something outside of Its own creation, right? So, perhaps, “miracles” have nothing to do with laws of nature. Maybe there’s something else!

A miracle excites wonder and awe because it appears to require, as its cause, something beyond the reach of human action and natural causes. Perhaps it doesn’t matter the circumstances of the so-called miracle—if it’s possible, or explainable, or performed by a human—perhaps what makes it a miracle is that we EXPERIENCE the feeling that God had intervened in our lives. After all, aren’t the words “miracle,” “sign,” and “wonder” all signposts that point us toward God’s interaction with our world?

While the Roman Catholic Church requires proof of unexplainable healing or feat for one to be admitted to sainthood, perhaps the rest of us can benefit from accepting miracles in whatever form—even if they have a logical explanation.

My analysis, as well as my personal experience, leads me to believe that the only characteristic found within most definitions of “miracles” that seems required is: an experience of wonder or awe. I propose a new definition for “miracle:”

A miracle is any awe-inspiring occurrence that allows one to know and experience God’s participation in our existence.

Wow. If this is the case than today’s more liberal use of the word would certainly have tremendous benefit! We could experience wonder and awe everywhere we look! Birth. Death. Sleep. Gravity. Love. The change of seasons. The sun. The moon. The stars.

Why not see everything as a miracle—the Divine is, in fact, everywhere and in everything, including each and every one of us. Life IS miraculous. Why not live in a state of awe and wonder!

Author's Bio: 

Natalie, Publisher of Transformation Magazine, has worked with thousands of people seeking to live a life of purpose and genuine relationship with their true selves, others, and their world. She is the former Director of a counseling center for teenagers and their parents. She is also a public speaker and leads workshops and retreats on Practical Spirituality, Finding Joy, Discovering Your Purpose, and Enlightened Relationships. www.transformationservices.org